Monday, 14 October 2013

Spotlight: An Interview With Mary Cote

Today I have the pleasure of introducing Mary Cote. Mary writes her books while sitting under a cherry tree in the middle of nowhere, British Columbia, gaining inspiration from her two sons, and Herbert the WonderDog.

Mariah: Tell us a bit about yourself. 

Mary: There really isn’t a lot to tell. I live on an acreage in the Okanagan. I homeschooled my two boys... one of the best decisions I could have made. I’ve been involved in police enforcement, journalism, and the hospitality business, all of which I loved, and all of which manage to sneak into my writing. I write poetry for fun or to vent, but never to move people. I love a challenge, and don’t like to back down. I love to sing, but shouldn’t, love to cook and bake, but shouldn’t, and tell really bad jokes that people tell me I also shouldn’t. I exercise too little, swear too much, and would rather sit under a cherry tree to write, my dogs sleeping beside me, than attend a social function of any kind. I also have a small streak of political outrage as I age. I have a couple blogs – one that I love but don’t have the time to tend to (The Great Hair Migration), and one that gives in to that aforementioned political outrage. I write several genres – adventure, literary, humor, mystery, historical, military fiction – but never can or will write YA, science fiction, or fantasy. One day I will write a western – it’s on the bucket list.

Mariah: You're not only an author, but you also run a publishing company. Are there any unique challenges in juggling all this responsibility?

Mary: Most people think that it would be confusing to write my own work while editing someone else’s. Actually that’s no problem at all. The challenge is finding time to do the writing, the editing, the gardening, the cleaning, the renovating and the mom duties.

Mariah: Among your other novels, you've written a series. Tell us about Cabochon.

Mary: You take a group of trained military specialists, pull them into the private sector, have them running mines that only harvest colored gems and that always respect the local people, the local customs and the environment, and you have Cabochon Incorporated. It was a combination of my boys biggest interests at the time – one was a rock hound and the other is a nature/environmental encyclopedia – and my desire to make a political statement that yes, corporations can make money without hosing the people who work with them or around them. Part of the business is also to restore areas damaged by other mining companies, making it productive again. The two main characters are former Navy SEALS. Like all SEALS, they are uber-high achievers, so one has medical training and a degree in environmental reclamation. The other is a geologist. The added bonus, and this cannot be stressed enough, is that they are former Navy SEALS. In each book in the series, they go to a different mine in a different part of the world. Each book becomes a family event, because everyone gets involved in the research, and ideas of different situations fly around the room. It requires research into the mining of the particular gem, into the local geographic situation, the political and social aspects of the area where the story is set, and environmental issues that are pertinent to the area, all wrapped up in an adventure that keeps the boys on their toes as they try to solve a problem plaguing the mine. In the first one, they are rescuing the woman who will soon become a partner in the business. One involves the selling of women into prostitution, one involves the lack of funding for research that results in a kidnapping, one will involve eco-terrorism, and an upcoming one will involve poaching.

There is also a plan to bring in a companion series for children, set in the same places where the adult adventures are set.

Mariah: Where does your love of storytelling come from?

Mary: Grade 5 Math Class. I hated math (and it shows) so I started writing in my notebook. Before I knew it, I was writing a murder mystery that consumed math classes, lunch hours, and every school assembly that year (I didn’t really like school assemblies either). I also had an uncle who was a bit of an inspiration. He wrote for a newspaper, wrote during the war, fought with the King’s Own Calgary Tanks, and by the time I came along, he had a little house with a dozen typewriters and radios in it. It was fascinating.

Mariah: What was the hardest scene you've ever written?

Mary: The Battle of Dieppe... although to say it was a battle is a bit of a stretch. It was a slaughter of Canadians. When I wrote that scene, I based it on the notes and writings of my uncle who was there, so it was as if I was seeing it through his eyes. Ayne is a fictionalized account of this uncle’s life. The scenes in the jungles of Vietnam for Chuck (The Red of Flowing Blood I See) were also a challenge. It’s a task that seems much too enormous, to take real situations that were filled with anguish, pain, and death then attempt to portray them on paper. It’s very hard to do them justice. The books I have done that involve war are the most difficult, because there were real people there. In completely fictional work, killing a character isn’t a heartbreaker for me, even when it is a main character. That said, in both Redemption and Never Again Forever, there were a few scenes that were taxing to write.

Mariah: Of all your novels, of what one are you the most proud?

Mary: Oye, the dreaded question... the Cabochon series is fun, and pushes me to learn more, which I like. Redemption is special to me because I started that book the day my mother passed away. Never Again Forever deals with an issue that is very important to me and one that I wish more people would take seriously – the threat of what we are told is global warming (although in my book, we discover that the global warming is a ruse perpetrated by politicians) and the fallout from our indifference to the science. The military fictions (AyneThe Red of Flowing Blood I See, and Trip Anderson, USMC: The Road Less Travelled) are special because of the appreciation they give me of what others were and are prepared to do for me, without knowing me. Their sacrifices move me always so anything I can do to attempt to show that I understand at least a bit of what they experienced, that I don’t take what they did for granted, and that perhaps I can make more people aware, is very important for me. If I have to pick one... Trip Anderson, USMC. I had to mentally put on the uniform, go through boot camp, fight his battles from his perspective, deal with the BS that they deal with daily from within the Corps and from without. For a Canadian chick to try this was a huge challenge, and while I am proud that I tried, it is also what makes it difficult to pitch, because no one will believe that a woman could write that sort of book and be anywhere close to accurate.

Mariah: What do you think is the hardest part about being both an author and a publisher?

Mary: Time. There just isn’t enough of it, and when I write I feel guilty because I should be working on one of our other author’s books to help edit, promote or network with them. I need about 10 more hours in each day.

Mariah: Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

Mary: Hobbies? LOL. I used to do a lot of sewing, clothes but also hand stitching. I’ve made over 50 counted cross stitch Christmas stockings. I love gardening, but don’t really have the time for that. Photography has always been a bit of a passion; holidays for me are about going someplace where I can write and take pictures.

Mariah: What can your readers look forward to seeing from you in the future?

Mary: I have a literary piece about a man who wakes up one day believing that he is going to die within the year, so he ends up living waaaay outside his comfort zone, waiting for death to come take him. I have more Cabochon books coming out, the next one set at a ruby mine in Tasmania, then a sapphire mine on Baffin Island in the Canadian arctic, before it moves to Madagascar then the Urals. I’m playing with the Cabochon kids books, and have a literary piece about Jesus, done from the perspective of Mary Magdala. There is another adventure book in the works as well – Bhisti, about a Canadian family involved in the alternate fuel industry (and with fingers in several other pies).

A big thanks to Mary for stopping by. 

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